Wilson returns to NZRC with an Audi Quattro
This weekend’s opening round of the 2011 Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship in Otago features the return of the revered Audi Quattro name to the historic category, one of four classes within the championship structure.
Driving the newly-built production specification Audi Quattro is another
well-known name in New Zealand rallying circles, Ray Wilson, of Pokeno.
At the DriveSouth Rally of Otago, Wilson is among 42 competitors in the
rally-within-a-rally in the International Classic Rally of Otago. But
from a NZRC historic category perspective, Wilson competes in a
ten-strong field of five Ford Escorts, a Mazda RX7, Mazda RX3, Mazda 323
and a Mitsubishi Lancer.
The fire-spitting, world-dominating Group B Audi Quattros of the early
1980s form the basis of many legendary rally successes such as the one
campaigned around New Zealand by NZRC sponsor Brian Green and the late
Wilson says: “It’s about getting out there to have some fun and drive a
car really. I’ve never completed a full New Zealand rally championship,
even back when we were running the Toyota Starlet. We did championship
rallies in the Mazda but it’s been at least 20 years since I last
competed in a championship round. Since, I’ve been building and testing
cars, but nothing actually competitive.”
Wilson is joined by Christchurch’s Mike Fletcher as co-driver in the
Audi. Fletcher is another long-serving competitor and navigated for
Stewart in his Audi so returns to a car and crew he knows well.
“The car has been built and prepared by Timo Lloyd and Malcolm Stewart’s
service crew from Dannevirke and is actually owned by Sue Stewart,
Malcolm’s wife. I’m just the driver,” says Wilson. “It’s brand new this
year and has absolutely no previous competition history with any other
driver. It’s a five cylinder Audi Quattro so it sounds awesome! It’s
normally-aspirated, so relatively it’s quite slow, also because it’s a
solid car and quite heavy.
“When Sue started thinking about this project we happened to look on
TradeMe and there was this car a guy was selling, a left-hand drive,
which suited perfectly. The objective is to make it as reliable as
possible; it’s nowhere near a Group B car; the only similarity is the
name and body shape, less the flared guards and turbo-charger. It’s what
you’d call a Group N (production specification) of that era.
“The primary goal is fun; the secondary goal is to finish the events and
the third goal is to make people more aware of the fact there are some
old historic four-wheel-drive cars that could be out there in the
Since its completion, the car has run in two events, with Wilson and
Fletcher having their first run together at the recent Westland rally.
“So it’s had a reasonable shake-down.”
Wilson and fellow historic category competitors like Ford Escort drivers
Jeff Judd, from Christchurch, and Shane Murland, from Paraparaumu,
contest the 14 stages of Rally Otago behind the premier production car
category (Group N 4WD and Super 2000) drivers such as defending champion
Dean Sumner and former champions Hayden Paddon, Richard Mason and Chris
With ten competitors in the historic NZRC category, competition is
expected to be fierce, says Peter (‘PJ’) Johnston, chairman of Rally New
Zealand, the organisation which runs New Zealand’s premier rally
“It’s also a major highlight for rally fans that 1981 world rally
champion Ari Vatanen is contesting the Otago classic rally,” says
Johnston. “We have the opportunity to enjoy some truly world-class
rallying right here at home in the opening round of the New Zealand
After Otago, the NZRC continues with Rally New Zealand based at Hampton
Downs on 7 and 8 May, Rally Wairarapa on 28 to 29 May, the International
Rally of Whangarei on 16 to 17 July and Rally Hawke’s Bay from 20 to 21